Lee Valley Regional Park

Park Development Framework

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Water Based Recreation and Leisure

Water based Recreation and Leisure

Where are we now?

Water is one of the defining characteristics of the Park, providing a wide range of opportunities for recreation and leisure.

At present ownership, management, water quality and accessibility limit the potential of the recreational and leisure offer. Although we own and manage a large number of water areas within the Park, (which are accessible for activities such as fishing and sailing), the majority of the water resource is owned by British Waterways, Thames Water and the Environment Agency. Recreational use of their estates is in many areas restricted.

A Water Management Strategy was prepared for the Park in the late 1990’s. This sets out our approach as to how to balance the competing demands of recreation and biodiversity. The study informed the policies and proposals embodied in the Lee Valley Regional Park Plan (2000) and continues to be the basis for integrating competing demands on the Parks water bodies.

There are a number of different uses for the water areas in the Park, including:


We currently operate 28 gravel pits, 22 venues and 15 stretches of river for coarse angling. These sites are either managed by our Fisheries team or by angling clubs, societies or consortia, Thames Water also operates an important fishery within the Walthamstow Reservoir complex. Fishing is controlled by season permits or day ticket. Existing fisheries support and actively assist in the development of the Lee Valley Biodiversity Action Plan.

Recreational Boating

The River Lee Navigation forms part of the national network of navigable waterways. We currently manage and operate marinas at Springfield and Stanstead Abbotts, and boat hire is available at Lee Valley Boat Centre. British Waterways currently manage and license short and long term boat use on rivers within the Park.

Sailing and rowing

Sailing is currently offered at club-based facilities on a number of water bodies. Rowing is provided on the River Lea by both the Broxbourne and the Lea Rowing Club.


Canoeing is currently a minor recreational activity in the Park. The Olympic legacy White Water Canoe Course (located at Waltham Cross and operated by the Authority) will raise the profile of canoeing (and recreational rafting) significantly.


Currently swimming in the various ‘natural’ water bodies in the Park is not permitted. It is however recognised as a potential activity, either recreationally, or as part of other sporting/recreational activities e.g. triathlon or aquathon.

Other water recreation opportunities

There may be further opportunities to utilise the water resources in the Park for recreation and leisure activities that have yet to be identified. Such activities may include water skiing, kite surfing, powered boating, rafting, sub aqua and model boating.

What do we want to achieve?

For the many water features in the Park to be one of its defining elements.

The location to host a wide range of water based activities that will collectively deliver significant regional value.

To integrate a wide range of water based leisure and recreation uses, including:


We want to continue to develop and enhance the Parks current fishing offer and usage levels.

Recreational Boating

We want the Park to offer a high quality recreational boating experience that will help improve those areas of the Park adjacent to the canal network. This should provide an additional interest for a wide range of Park users.

Sailing and Rowing

We want the Park to develop a coordinated range of opportunities for both sailing and rowing. This should provide an attractive and accessible recreational resource for casual users and enthusiasts, as well as opportunities to facilitate competitive sport.


TWe want to expand opportunities for recreational canoeing throughout the Park using the network of waterways and water bodies.


We want the Park to provide opportunities for swimming in one or more of the ‘natural’ water bodies in the Park. Issues of water quality, safety, access and egress from the water body, as well as potential conflict with other uses (e.g. biodiversity, fishing etc), should be satisfactorily resolved.

Other water recreation opportunities

We want the Park to continue to expand and enhance the range of water based recreation and leisure opportunities in a way that complements and supports other aims and objectives for the Park.

Balancing competing demands

We recognise that the water bodies of the Park must deliver a range of objectives that are not always compatible with recreational and leisure uses. These include water bodies where recreational and leisure use can impact on biodiversity values, and the various reservoirs and waterways that form the water supply and the flood management networks.

We want to ensure an appropriate balance; that recreational and leisure use is integrated into the development and management of water bodies and waterways. Identifying primary uses for water bodies within the Park (as set out in our Water Management Strategy), will continue to provide the basis for future development.

Shared facilities

We want to have multi-activity and multi-purpose visitor nodes, in preference to a multitude of single-purpose or stand-alone facilities. Wherever possible, we will develop coordinated user facilities that support a variety of water based recreational activities alongside land based recreation, and general visitor facilities.

How will we deliver?

For the whole Park

We will

  • Fishing
    • Undertake a Strategic Review of the current and potential future offer for fishery/angling in Park
  • Recreational Boating
    • Work with partners (esp. British Waterways and Environment Agency) to enhance water quality on all recreational waterways.

On our estate

We will

  • Fishing
    • Enhance our own fishery offer (subject to the finding of the Strategic Review), focussing on infrastructure development and water body management for publicly accessible fisheries.
  • Recreational Boating
    • Explore opportunities for enhanced and additional infrastructure to support recreational boating.
    • Explore opportunities for alternate management arrangements for those marinas operated by the Authority.
  • Continue to support existing water based recreational and leisure uses.
  • Explore opportunities for provision of new water based recreation and leisure opportunities through commercial partnership or club-led developments.
  • Explore opportunities to facilitate swimming within one or more of the ‘natural’ water bodies in the Park.

Working with others

We will

  • Fishing
    • Support fishery provision within the Park by others, and explore closer operational coordination, to include joint marketing and promotion where appropriate.
  • Recreational Boating
    • Work with partners (esp. British Waterways and Environment Agency) to enhance water quality on all recreational waterways
    • Support opportunities for enhanced and additional infrastructure in support of recreational boating throughout the Park. Proposals will expand and enhance the range of values offered by the Park, including biodiversity, visitor infrastructure, social and community, landscape and heritage and environmental benefits.
  • Sailing and Rowing
    • Continue to support the current sailing and rowing provision offered on a range of water bodies within the Park.
    • Where possible work with clubs and other providers to work collectively to enhance the levels of public accessibility and participation, including joint marketing and promotion.
    • Provide opportunities for more open and accessible recreational activity through ‘pay and play’ arrangements.
  • Explore opportunities with partners to develop a network of canoe trails and canoe hire opportunities throughout the Park.
  • Continue to support existing water based recreational and leisure uses within the Park.

Water Based Recreation and Leisure

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